C-USA Players of Week/Coaches Teleconference

Conference USA coaches, except for Jeff Bower of Southern Miss, held their weekly teleconference with the media on Monday, October 2. The Golden Eagles will appear in its second-straight Tuesday night game on ESPN2, traveling to battle defending the West Divison champion Golden Hurricane of TU at Skelly Stadium in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Here are the coaches comments and Players of the Week.

Offensive Player of Week: Chase Clement, Rice QB - First game since season opener saw Owls QB throw five touchdowns passes, a Rice record. He hit 29-of-39 for 299 yards and ran for 64 more. It was Rice's first road win since 2003.
Defensive Player of the Week: Adrian Haywood, SMU DT - Three tackles-for-loss, including a sack and a forced fumble in the fourth quarter of win over Tulane. He had five total tackles in game where SMU held Tulane to minus-33 rushing.
Special Teams Player of the Week: Jessie Henderson, SMU KR - Reclaimed the lead for Mustangs with 101 yard (officially 100) kickoff return at SuperDome versus Tulane and had three returns for 136 yards. It was his second career KOR for TD.

Skip Holtz, ECU: The Pirates were off after losing the previous week to WVU the previous Saturday. "We used this week to sit back and review where we are as staff and as a team. It is the midseason point, with four games and four weeks in August, so we worked on ourselves." Up next is Virginia from the ACC. "UVA very impressive as defense, they are big, athletic and strong. They have earned their numbers against Pitt, Ga Tech, etc. They only give up 28 percent on third down. A heck of a challenge for our offense." The Cavs remind Holtz of his own team on the other side of the ball. "They are like us on offense, playing a lot of young players. Every week you can see them grow, maturing. They put up 37 on Duke last week and I think this will be a very good team by end of season." Holtz was asked about playing a schedule that includes the ACC's Virginia and No. 4 West Virginia from the Big East as well as Navy. "Most schools in this conference playing a pretty hefty out-of-conference. It will be hard, but it will help us get to the point where we understand that level. You can go this way or schedule wins, but that doesn't make you a better team if you win those and are sitting at 4-1."

Mark Snyder, MU: The Thundering Herd is off to a 1-3 start, but have played four non-conference games to open the year, including road trips to No. 4 WVU, No. 15 Tennessee and 3-1 Kansas State. "We had a pretty challenging schedule. Learned a lot of lessons, and came out of it pretty healthy. I hope we learned some lessons in those games that carry over to conference play." The Herd opens eight weeks of Conference USA games by hosting Central Florida Wednesday night on ESPN2 at 7:30 p.m. The Golden Knights, also 1-3 but 0-1 in league play, broke a 17-game losing streak by beating MU in Orlando last year. "Coach O'Leary's team is very well coached. They put their playmaker's in position to make plays." Snyder is impressed with UCF on defense, although statistically they rank near the bottom in pass and total defense in the NCAA. "I think they have played some pretty good offenses. Florida is pretty good, South Florida throws it around a lot. We need to be smart and take what they give us. Eliminate mistakes." Last year, UCF celebrated the win by tearing down goal posts and shooting off fireworks. "Anytime you are a competitor, you don't like to get beat. We didn't play very well and they played well. We have to get better and take care of ourselves." Snyder even shot off fireworks following Sunday's practice to remind the players of what happened last season. He knows, on offense, the Golden Knights are an explosive team. "On offense, they are athletic. What they do is ask guys up front to do what they can do. Kevin Smith is a good player who typically holds onto the ball well. Stephen Moffett does what his coach asks him to do. They give you multiple looks on defense and run very well."

Chris Royal returned this interception 38 yards for the Herd's first score of Marshall's 20-3 win over UCF in the 2004 game at Joan C. Edwards Stadium. (photo by Greg Perry, HI)

George O'Leary, UCF: The Golden Knights have lost to Florida, South Florida and Southern Miss last Tuesday, 19-14, since beating I-AA Villanova in the opener. O'Leary believes his team has a lot to do with the losing. "I think basically there are plays we are beating ourselves with, on offense and on special teams. We have got to correct those." He is impressed with the Herd and the way they have performed against a tough schedule. "I think well-coached. Outstanding competition against West Virginia, Tennessee. Their kids play hard, they have weapons on both offense and defense and get the ball in the hands of their playmakers." One of those playmakers is running back Ahmad Bradshaw. "The tailback, 44, is a good football player, good vision, keeping his pads north and south." He also likes MU quarterback Bernard Morris, a native of Orlando. "The player makes the offense go is the quarterback, he makes plays and is doing a good job of getting them into right play. I am impressed with 24 (receiver Emanuel Spann) and their speed at receiver." Pass defense has been a problem for UCF up till now. "We have given up too many big plays. The score matters most to me. We have played pretty consistent on most down, but you can't keep giving up those big plays. Big thing is we have improved in a lot of areas, but shooting ourselves in foot with big plays. field position and momentum, that's what big pass plays have cost us." Special teams have also left points on the field, but Coach O'Leary thinks, once again, they are set for improvement in that phase of the game. "See improvement every week, then in each of the games its been a disappointment for me and team. He had a good week, hope he carries practice week to game week."

Art Briles, Houston: The Cougars lost a heartbreaker at Miami, Florida on Saturday by 14-13. "I was proud of way players played, with a lot of confidence. We battled hard." Houston is 2-0 in league play, and will play another out-of-conference game with Louisiana-Lafayette, the Ragin' Cajuns. Briles was asked to comment on the state of officiating in the game of college football, in the wake of some calls in the game with Miami that many Cougar fans thought went against UH. "I think there is a definite means for reevaluation of where we are at (in regards to officiating). I don't spend a lot of time worrying about it, my job is to win games but there are some instances that need reevaluated." On defense, Briles was very happy with the effort in Miami on Saturday. "They really played well against a talented Miami football team. Got some guys that are three-and-four year starters, mixed in with some young guys who are stepping up. To win conference, we have got to play great defense."

Todd Graham, Rice: The first year head coach of the Owls won his first game at Rice with big win over Army, 48-14. "Last week was really difficult. I had never lost a player in 19 years of coaching, never been through that. Somehow were able to focus and get a big win, our first win." Graham is very happy with the play of his receiver, Jarrett Dillard. "It is a shame we lost (quarterback) Chase (Clement) in game one. Jarrett Dillard has great ball skills at receiver, with great character, an incredible athlete and better person and it's hard to tell how far along he would be if Chase had been in lineup all year. With Quinton Smith and Joel Armstrong, we have talent." This week Rice will play at Tulane, in a relatively short trip from Houston, Texas to New Orleans. "We watch them, and they had a great fake punt on seven-yard line that, if they catch the ball, probably score. SMU had a 101 yard kickoff return as well. The Tulane quarterback (Lester Ricard) is very dangerous. We have to control clock, keep their offense off the field. Their record is like our, it doesn't reflect how good our teams are. We started off season playing very well against Houston. We lost our quarterback, then still played UCLA very well. Played two very good teams in Florida State and Texas. Our practices were not very good last week, but we where able to over come that. I think Chase being back at quarterback was big for us." Graham was able to talk with some coaches who helped him get through the pain of losing freshman player Dale Lloyd early last week, when he died following a Sunday workout. "Grant Taeff called me, Bobby Ross, Bobby Bowden, people who have been through something like this. They said I needed to be a leader and that's what I tried to do."

Phil Bennett, SMU: Big road win over Tulane on Saturday, holding the Green Wave to minus-33 rushing. "Any win on road is good. We knew Tulane would be fired up about being back home, but we got the big kick return and pressured them well. We were fortunate enough to stay on top and win." This week, SMU will travel again, this time in-state in Texas to UTEP. "They are a team that's talented. Jordan Palmer one of the top passers in country. (Receiver Johnny Lee) Higgins is good. They have sold out two games in a row, so we'll have to be ready to play."

Chris Scelfo, Tulane: Tulane lost its first home game since December 2004 in SuperDome with loss to SMU, a team that took in the Green Wave in the wake of Hurricane Katrina last year. "Give SMU a lot of credit, they took away the run. We probably waited too long to go to the air exclusively." Tulane will host Rice this week. "I left message for Todd (Graham, of Rice) last week. It was a very trying week for them. The way they played at Army showed they got it together and the team that makes the fewest mistakes will win." Scelfo was asked to comment on one of his players from Shreveport, Antonio Harris, and his impact on the Green Wave team. "He is a captain who comes to work every day. Antonio doesn't say three words, but has gone out there and led by example. He is one of bright spots for us this year."

Watson Brown, UAB: 21-3 win over in-state rival Troy, from the Sun Belt Conference. "I was pleased with our team. We went in with nine starters out, mostly on offense. Defense knew they had to step up." UAB has beaten Memphis six straight times and the two teams meet this week. "We've been lucky in lot of those games and I'll take that again. We would game plan to chase down DeAngelo Williams (the three-time C-USA Player of the Year), and we can't do that now." The quarterback situation for UAB has been up in the air, and one or the other QB have been injured the last two weeks. "Sam (Hunt) looks out now, he has a lot of swelling. Today, we would say he won't played. He hasn't been injured before, so we'll see how it affects him and how he bounces back from it. We had the same guy for four years (in quarterback Darrell Hackney), kind of like Memphis with DeAngelo. Chris (Williams) didn't go last week with concussion, so they are picking each other up. They had both played in every game, up to last week. Sam a better runner, but we don't change anything depending on which player is in there." Brown was asked by a writer to talk about the SEC, being as Alabama and Auburn are right in UAB's back door, so to speak. "Our league a lot like the SEC, competitive top to bottom. We may even be more competitive top to bottom, but we beat each other up in league play. They have great defenses, built off of speed. The game has shortened and yardage and scoring totals, I would be shocked if those total aren't down at the end of the year. They (SEC teams) just don't give up many big plays."

Steve Kragthorpe, Tulsa: The Golden Hurricane will host Southern Miss on Tuesday night on ESPN2, and beat Navy September 23, 24-23 in overtime. "(USM is) a very efficient football team. Their quarterback is really throwing deep ball well. They have a youngster running well in freshman Damien Fletcher." Kragthorpe is very high on his quarterback (as well as the QB from Southern Miss). He thinks the Tulsa quarterback is the model for student-athletes. "Paul Smith is great leader for us, embodies every thing good about student-athlete. He is the leader of the team and a leader on campus. He is very involved in FCA, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes."

Mike Price, UTEP: Miners had second straight home sellout of 51,000-plus with win over rival New Mexico State. "It was a slugfest, it was like grass basketball. They threw 76 times, and there was over 1,100 yards of total offense between the teams. Not much defense played, but we sold out stadium and we are glad we won." Next up is SMU at the Sun Bowl. "SMU beat us soundly at their place last year. Their quarterback is really, really good athlete. They have scored over 50 points in two games, previous to Tulane, and they really dominated Tulane. The score didn't reflect that. I am glad we are playing them here." Price fielded a question from a writer in Seattle about offensive line play. His 1995 Washington State team played same five guys all year for every snap, and Washington has done that so far this year, through five games. "You look at losing teams and they don't have the same people all year. Offensively linemen need to know each other, it's about cohesiveness." Price didn't worry then, or now, about getting those players tired. "It doesn't seem offensive linemen wear down like defensively linemen." Price also was surprised to think UTEP will open conference play against SMU, the team that beat them at the end of the year and cost the Miners a shot at the West Division title. "It is very unusual to start conference play against team you ended against last year. I hadn't thought of that, but it's not as important as if you open the season with them. We have already played four non-conference games."

Tommy West, Memphis: The Tigers lost to in-state rival Tennessee on Saturday at home in front of over 61,000 in the Liberty Bowl, the third-largest home crowd in C-USA history. "We struggled in game offensively. Defensively, played pretty well in first half. We gave up just 3.9 yards per rush, best this year. We have got to get sound. We busted two coverage's and gave up two quick touchdowns to start second half and they just got away from us." Now it is a game with UAB, who has beat UM six times straight. "UAB, we haven't beat them in a long time. We have had a problem matching their running game. They are very physical." West hopes the team has learned some lessons. "We'll keep everybody in the same place and hope they continue to get better. We had just seven tackles for loss going into the game, and we got six against Tennessee. I hope we get sound and do things without making mistakes. We'll let them play. You got to go talk to defense, settle them down in game, but I didn't see much of our offense until I watched the film on Sunday." Offensively, West is looking for improvement in the rushing portion of the offense. "We have struggled with run game and when we can't run, we're not very good. We have got to get more physical in run game."

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